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Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

What Will You Focus On in School this Year? An Essay on Finding Your 20%

I'm guessing that most of us have heard of the Pareto Principle, commonly referred to as the 80/20 rule.

In business terms, this Principle is often used to show that 80% of results will often come from just 20% of the total effort we put into achieving something. In other words, 20% of what we do matters and the rest is likely to be little more than a waste of our time and resources.

Applied to the world of school, it is therefore likely that at least some of the following statements are true.

  • 80% of what is meaningful beyond school comes from 20% of what is actually taught in school.

  • 80% of the attention that a prospective family gives to your website will come from 20% of the pages you have created.

  • 80% of the donations that you will receive this year will come from 20% of the people you reach out to.

  • 80% of the impact of your school's strategic plan will be achieved by 20% of the objectives you have set for yourself.

A yellow sign with the number 20 on it

You get the idea. And before you start wondering whether it's actually a ratio of 90/10 or 60/40, the point here is there is almost always an imbalance between the effort we put in and where our time and resources are well spent. The Principle also challenges us, in so many areas of life, business … and school, to reflect on where to focus and where, eventually, we should cut back.

Pushing this logic a little further and focusing, for the sake of argument, on school admissions, it starts to get even more challenging. We can perhaps live with the idea that 80% of our marketing efforts are not reaching the people we are hoping to reach. But can it really be the case that only 20% of our carefully crafted websites matter? Is it possible that most of the time we spend on school tours has little to no impact on an enrolment decision?

With many schools around the world about to embark upon a new school year, this might just be the perfect time to ask yourself a simple, if not demanding, question: Where's my 20%?

Experience Strategy for schools, in many respects, is all about this question. It forces us to stand back and take a good look at all of our words, our plans, our systems, our structures… and to think hard about whether this time - these resources - are actually well spent; whether they are actually getting the job done for people; and whether they are truly enhancing the journey of students and their families in our school.

So what's the 20% that is going to be your focus this school year?


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